Removing Your Masks To Reveal Your Authentic Self
You may not even realise it, but you may be wearing many masks right now. These masks are inhibiting you from being your authentic self and living the life you actually want to live. In active addiction, these masks served a purpose for you. Now, in recovery, they will only hold you back.
Read on to discover what these masks are and what it means to be your authentic self. Learn how to begin working on removing these masks so you can experience the joy, fulfillment, and peace you deserve.
What are the masks?
In today’s day and age, many people wear masks, whether they struggle with addiction or not. The idea of wearing a mask essentially means to hide your truest, most authentic self. When you put on a mask, it can be intentional, or not. You may wear a mask at work, for example, in an effort to appear “professional” around your colleagues.
People may wear a mask by changing the way they normally act in order to fit in with others. They may behave one way with family, and become an entirely different person when around friends.
Some people may wear masks due to inherent societal conditioning. They embody an identity they feel they’re supposed to have in order to be seen as successful and worthy by society’s standards. They do this instead of looking inward and listening to their own internal compass.
During active addiction, you may have found yourself putting on many different masks for many different reasons. There are countless ways you may have done this, hiding your true authentic self, often without realising it.
It’s important to know how you were doing this during addiction, because some of these tendencies will likely slip into recovery with you.
Knowing which masks you may be putting on, and why, will help you as you learn how to take them off and become the trust, most fulfilled version of yourself.
Let’s take a look at a few of the ways in which wearing a mask may have manifested while you were in active addiction:
- One reason you may have worn a mask during active addiction was to blend in. You may have found yourself experiencing feelings of paranoia and worry, or shame and guilt. These feelings may have prompted you to behave in a way that helped you blend in with others.
- Another reason you may have worn a mask was to avoid vulnerability. Perhaps you didn’t want others to perceive you as being “weak.” Maybe you were vulnerable at one point in your life and you ended up getting hurt. Therefore, you put on a mask in an effort to hide your true emotions. You may have formed a belief at some point in your life that being vulnerable is not a strength or asset. Therefore, you put on a mask and stopped yourself from accessing your own vulnerability.
Hiding emotional pain
- In conjunction with avoiding vulnerability, you may have worn a mask in an effort to hide your emotional pain. Many people who struggle with addiction have experienced trauma or previously had trouble regulating their emotions. You may have worn a mask intentionally in an effort to shield others from your emotional pain. However, you may have unintentionally worn a mask that hid your own emotional pain from you. You pushed down, ignored, repressed, and numbed the difficult feelings you didn’t want to experience. (Unfortunately, those feelings don’t go away on their own. They must be acknowledged and worked through in order to experience true emotional freedom.)
Avoiding probing questions
- Another reason you may have worn a mask during active addiction was to avoid probing questions. Many people struggling with addiction find themselves tangled in a web of lies they’ve spun in an effort to protect themselves. Whether it had to do with hiding your whereabouts or hiding your substance use, you may have said or done many things that weren’t necessarily true. Part of this was likely in an effort to avoid questions you didn’t want to answer.
These are just a few examples of what wearing a mask can look like. However, there are countless ways this can show up in addiction, in recovery, and in life.
When you’re in recovery, you’re going to need to remove these masks in order to become your most authentic self. Removing the masks doesn’t happen overnight, and will definitely feel difficult and uncomfortable at first due to a lifetime of hiding behind them.
However, what you ultimately want is to feel peace, joy, and fulfillment in your mind and your spirit. This comes from removing those masks and embracing your true self.
Is the idea of “fake it ‘till you make it” harmful in early recovery?
There’s a saying in recovery that goes, “fake it ‘till you make it.” This catchphrase is meant to help those in early recovery stay motivated and continue to power through their recovery programme. Although many are well-intentioned when they say this, it can also have an adverse effect and prompt people to glaze over the deep inner work that needs to be done in recovery. Faking it keeps you at surface level. So is it really helpful to fake it till you make it, when you’re ultimately trying to be more authentic?
Sometimes in recovery, you’ll find yourself in situations where you’re being told to go against your own thoughts. For instance, you may have thoughts that you don’t want to attend the recovery meeting tonight, but you’re told you should go anyway. So, does it mean you’re being inauthentic if you go to the meeting, even though your thoughts are telling you that you don’t want to go?
In short – probably not. The thoughts that are telling you that you don’t want to go are stemming from your ego and not from your highest good. Those thoughts are likely rooted in fear, shame, and worry. You may not want to go to the meeting because you’re nervous, you’re worried about being judged, or you’re worried it won’t help you and it’ll be pointless to go. All of these concerns stem from the ego part of you, which can also sound like your inner critic.
It’s okay to acknowledge these difficult emotions and worries, to welcome them, and to then go to the meeting because somewhere inside of you, there’s likely something that’s telling you to go. There's a part of you, even if it’s microscopic, that knows going to the meeting would ultimately be in your favour.
What does being your authentic self look like?
In the above situation, being authentic doesn’t mean not going to the meeting. Here, being authentic means being honest about your concerns about the meeting.
It means being real with yourself, a sponsor, and perhaps your loved ones, about your fears and worries. It means showing up at the meeting as your true self, without any walls up.
Authenticity is all about honoring who you really are in all aspects. This means honoring your desires and needs. It means honoring your interests and the things you find joy in. It means honoring how you really feel, and knowing what your true emotions are.
When you’re truly being authentic, you’re being your true self, despite any expectations or conditions of worth placed upon you. Being authentic means being connected to who you are, your truest self, and being truly okay with it. This means acknowledging not only the good parts of you, but also the not-so-great parts, too.
Living in your authenticity takes time, patience, and learning. It takes conscious effort and awareness. While becoming more and more authentic, you’ll also find yourself working on building the confidence to feel fully okay in who you are. This, too, will come with time, patience, and conscious effort.
How to remove the masks and discover your authentic self
Walking through life wearing a mask deprives you and everyone around you of experiencing the incredible person you truly are, and have the potential to become. Masks become deeply problematic when you start to believe they are true, or when you start to feel you’re being dishonest with yourself.
Fortunately, you can remove these masks and allow your true self to come through. Certain masks need to be dropped in recovery, but remember, it is all a process.
The first step towards removing a mask is to become aware that you’re wearing one (or many). After you become aware, you can work on understanding why you were wearing these masks, and how they were serving you. Then, you can gradually work on hearing your true feelings and responses. Finally, you can begin to live your life in accordance with your authentic feelings and desires.
Again, removing these masks absolutely doesn’t happen overnight. Oftentimes, there are deep-rooted, underlying reasons for some of the masks you may be wearing. For this reason, attending one-on-one therapy or counselling can be incredibly beneficial in helping you discover and honor your most authentic self.
Additionally, group therapy can also help you develop your authenticity. You can pay attention to what your natural responses are to others and then notice how your mind is working. You can learn from the experiences of those around you, and find commonality amongst your stories to help you honor your own truth.
Engaging in meetings, such as SMART Recovery or AA/NA, can also help you discover your authenticity. Many recovery programmes are inherently designed to help connect you to your true, authentic self, and to grow from that place.
Finally, engaging in a meditation practice or yoga practice can help you connect to your authentic self. Mindfulness meditation and silent meditation specifically can help you learn how to observe and build awareness of your current thought patterns. These practises have a multitude of benefits, and will ultimately help you get closer to who you truly are at your core.
Author - Thurga
- Beware the Masks of Addiction - https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/life-in-the-recovery-room/201710/beware-the-masks-addiction